Exploring President Lincoln

If you’re coming to Washington, DC and want to know about Abraham Lincoln and his time as President, here are some good ways to get to an up-close look at him ---

  • Pay a call on President Lincoln’s Cottage --- This was the home where President Abraham Lincoln and his wife, Mary, spent their summers. Washington, DC was built on a swamp, which meant summers here were hot and muggy and almost unbearable!  So the Lincolns would pack up and make the trip to the outskirts of the city where things were cooler and calmer. The problem was Mr. Lincoln was still the President and had to commute back to the White House each day and then back to the cottage in the evening.  See what you think of this commute.

 

  • Take A Group Tour of Ford’s Theatre and Learn About the Assassination of President Lincoln

What was life in DC like in 1865 when Ford’s Theatre, a renovated Baptist Church, became the setting for one of the nation’s most horrifying tragedies --- the assassination of a sitting U.S. president?  DC was still a young city then but it was growing at a fast pace because it was the Capital of the United States with lots of government workers and because it had been the seat of power for the Union effort during the Civil War:

The streets were muddy, unpaved and often strewn with garbage and therefore things didn’t always smell so good. (Phew!). The dome on the top of the U.S. Capitol had just been completed a few years earlier. President Lincoln had insisted it be completed asa sign that the Union lived on. The White House was called the Executive Mansion. The city had no electricity. No on had ever heard of a radio, a TV or a computer --- let alone an Ipad, Ipod, a mobile phone, the internet, 3D movies (or movies of any kind)  or YouTube! Homes in the city had no running water. Cars had not been invented. Carriages, horses and foot-power were the main means of transportation. Ladies wore dresses with long sleeves and big, long skirts. Men wore top hats. It was in this setting that we find Ford’s Theatre, a thriving establishment presenting the latest plays of the day. That was until the night of April 14, 1865. This was the night that John Wilkes Booth, an actor who regularly performed at Ford’s (and his accomplices), assassinated President Abraham Lincoln as he and his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, watched a performance of Our American Cousin from a private box above the stage. Then everything changed for Ford’s Theatre!

What was to be done with the theatre after such a horrible event occurred here?  John Ford’s theatre had been a popular place to gather and be entertained.  It was a place where everyday life took place. 

What do you do with an everyday place where a great tragedy happened? What should become of Ford’s Theatre? Would people continue to use it as a theatre? Should it be closed or torn down to ease the nation’s suffering? Should it be forgotten? Should it be remembered? Should it become a memorial to the slain president?  In the end, the U.S. government took it over; Ford’s Theatre was closed and remained so for almost 100 years. Then it was reopened as it is today ---

They also have a very informative museum that tells the story of Abraham  Lincoln and John Wilkes Booth and his cohorts.

  • Visit the Lincoln Memorial --- especially at night. Love the lights! They are totally inspiring!

How should the nation honor President Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States?  What is befitting the man who wanted desperately to keep the Union together as the Civil War neared? What would appropriately tell the story of his efforts to lead the Union when it became evident that the South would break away seeking to become its own separate nation? What monument would honor this man and express the situation of the times?  This was not an easy decision!! And it was not an uncontested decision. Maybe another obelisk to be a companion to the Washington Monument? How about a pyramid? Well, a 72-mile long parkway with a 50 foot green area down the middle containing gardens and fountains, all linking Washington, DC to Gettysburg, PA would surely do the trick. Right? A funeral pyre from which a stream of smoke would perpetually flow. These were all suggested but none of these were acceptable!

Here’s what the final Memorial, the one that stands on the National Mall today looks like:  It is--–Rectangular and looks much like a Greek temple. Has 38 fluted, Doric columns around the entrance. If you look closely, you’ll notice that these columns tilt inward ever so slightly!! Really!  This slant is designed to make the structure look even bigger and even grander. Has 36 names above the columns representing the number of states in the Union (The whole United States) when Abraham Lincoln was elected President. Has a top frieze (a picture in stone across the top) with another listing of states. There are 48 states this time representing the number of states in the United States when the memorial was dedicated. Has a gigantic, 20 foot white marble statue of Abraham Lincoln himself that sits on the top of an 11foot base. He is depicted as if he is deep in thought. The sculpture was carved from 28 separate blocks of marble and never assembled until it was moved into the central chamber of the memorial. When you visit the Lincoln Memorial, look VERY closely and see if you can see the 28 separate blocks. Has President Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address carved on the north wall and his Gettysburg Address carved on the south wall. Was constructed of marble, granite and limestone from all over the United States – the north, the south, the east and the west.  This selection of stones by the architect was intended to show that the country had come together to create something beautiful. It was no longer a country torn apart!! The cornerstone for the memorial was laid in 1915. Inside the cornerstone are two copper boxes, one inside the other containing - a Bible, a copy of the US Constitution, maps of the United States, Alaska, the Philippines and the District of Columba, a world atlas of the time, a small American flag, some 1914 coins and two issues of the National Geographic magazine. Robert Todd Lincoln, President and Mrs. Lincolns’ oldest son, was in the audience the day his father’s memorial was dedicated on the National Mall, May 30, 1922. He was 78 years of age.

 

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Robert Todd Lincoln 1865

Robert Todd Lincoln 1865